Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Deadpool 7, originally released April 3rd, 2013.
Scott: The first 6 issues of Deadpool adhered to a very specific and bizarre tone. The oddball humor likely turned away nearly as many readers as it won over, but you have to admire Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan for boldly seeing their outlandish resurrected-Presidents arc through. It was an ambitiously weird way to kick off a series, and I found their marriage of subject and tone to be a success. Count me firmly on the side of the “won-overs.” Deadpool 6 established a new arc to occupy the series, but Posehn and Duggan decide to put that on hold for an issue. Because of their tight production schedule, you see, they’ve been forced to release an inventory issue — a print-ready issue that’s been filed away in case of such an emergency — but rather than an issue from this Deadpool run, they’ve dusted off an inventory issue from the late 70s/early ’80s. It’s of course a guise, and Posehn and Duggan are at the helm of these retro-looking pages. While they pass it off as a time-saver, Deadpool 7 must’ve required much more effort from the creative team than a typical issue, and the result is a perfect Bronze Age satire.
The opening pages drop us right into a vintage Bronze Age Spider-Man comic. Artist Scott Koblish, along with colorist Val Staples, recreate this era so convincingly that I had to remind myself it wasn’t actually drawn thirty-some years ago (Then again, the clues are right there: the story is set “A long time ago, at the end of the Bronze Age of Comics,” a description that would be both too nonsensical and too hyper self-aware to appear in a comic from that time.) Right away, it’s clear that this issue of Deadpool is different — the jokes are coming from all angles, not just the Mouth of the Merc. It plays on the device of Peter Parker constantly being ignored by the other newspaper staff by having him plainly announce that he is Spider-Man, and that his uncle was shot because he “did nothing to help stop a crime,” and yet J. Jonah Jameson is only concerned with his staff’s haircuts. It’s funny satire on it’s own, but it’s taken up a notch when Peter allows Deadpool to steal Flash Thompson’s car and realizes in horror that his history is repeating itself.
The bulk of the story revolves around another familiar Marvel hero: Iron Man. A sharply-dressed demon (or possibly a young Dennis Quaid?) contracts Deadpool to get Iron Man drinking again. Deadpool tracks down Tony Stark, but upon seeing what a mess Tony is, he decides to help him kick his alcoholism instead. When Iron Man is needed to prevent a nuclear plant meltdown, Deadpool knocks Tony out and dons the iron suit himself, guzzling booze as he flies toward the plant. He capably, if not eco-consciously, handles the situation, but is quickly confronted by the demon. Deadpool points out that the deal was to get Iron Man drunk, not Tony Stark, and since he is currently Iron Man and currently drunk, he has accomplished his task. Mephisto drags the demon to hell and Deadpool disappears for a decade.
Humor is a huge part of the appeal for this series, and while the first six issues were notoriously hit or miss with their relentless barrage of jokes, this issue hits consistently. Lots of the jokes are period-specific references, and I’m sure half of them went over my head, but even if you take all of the retro satire away, this issue was refreshingly clever, even for a series that can hang its hat on being considered “refreshingly clever.” The bit with the Stark employee who assumes “Tony” refers to Tony Johnson, the janitor, killed me. The back-and-forth gag about Power Man and Iron Fist was brilliant. Even the most out-of-left-field moment — a reference to a Justin Timberlake line from The Social Network –– still made me laugh.
When Posehn and Duggan stop to mock the time period, it gets even funnier. My personal favorite joke was Deadpool’s plan to make laser discs more convenient:
As funny as Posehn and Duggan are, my favorite thing about their comics is just how apparent it is that they love writing them. The have a lot of fun writing for Deadpool as a character, but this issue makes it clear how deeply they love comics in general. If you check the “Dear Deadpool” page in the back of the issue, you’ll notice a letter from “A young Brian Posehn,” detailing the great lengths he went through to obtain a copy of Deadpool. Deadpool’s response offers a rundown of Posehn’s career, explaining that only after he toils for 25 years as a comedian and TV writer should he approach Marvel about his dream of writing comics. It comes off as a strangely inspiring story. Here’s a man — a very nerdy man — who has had a successful career that many writer/comedians might envy, but he never forgot about his childhood dream of writing comics. I’m sure many comic book writers love what they do, but with Posehn you can be sure he only does it out of love, and his excitement shows on the page.
This wasn’t the issue of Deadpool I expected, but I can’t say I minded all that much. I loved the undead Presidents arc, but thought this was the single strongest issue of the series to date. While this was likely an issue the writers needed to get out of their system, I wouldn’t mind seeing them neglect narrative development for the sake of an incredibly fun, well-executed one-off like this more often, especially if they have an art team up to the challenge like Koblish and Staples. I haven’t said much about the art, but really I can’t say enough. It’s perfect. Patrick, what was your reaction to this issue? Also, did you have any favorite jokes I failed to mention?
Patrick: Oh, the best joke in this issue is the fact that it exists at all. One of the amazing things about Marvel NOW! is the insane amount of leadtime they’ve built into every series. All-New X-Men and Superior Spider-Man have been putting out bi-weekly issues since they debuted, so there’s no way in hell this issue actually the result of any time-constraints. I absolutely love the idea that Duggan and Posehn simply wanted to write a weird period piece — a relic of publishing practices that don’t exist anymore.
The art, as you mention Scott, is basically perfect, but I wanted to draw a little special attention to colorist Val Staples. Staples’ coloring imitates the technological limitations of the era, which goes a long way toward making this issue feel like it’s fetishizing the media and not the time. Mad Men is back on TV — a show that, like everyone else, I adore — and while it trades in nostalgia (and whatever the opposite of nostalgia is) for the period, the series is less romantic about television series from that time. Deadpool 7 uses the limited color palette that actually makes it look like a product of the time, and the effect is dazzling. Colors bleed and textures are represented by dots of colored ink, and every page has bleed information around the edges and crop marks at the top of the page. I’ve seen a lot of comics that embrace the designs or story conventions of comics-past, but this is the first I’ve seen to play with the technology.
Interestingly, the lettering all appears to be done using modern techniques – it’s particularly striking on Deadpool’s dialogue, as his speech balloons have that gradient yellow coloring in them. At first, I thought this was kind of a bummer, but it’s also just a fun reminder that Deadpool is appearing anachronistically in this pretend-inventory issue from the 80s.
I would gladly read a series that’s just pretend Deadpool archives from periods in which he was never published if they all got this kind of attention to detail. Scott says this is the best of the run so far, which I feel like is no contest. At this point, I’m filing this one away under my favorites for the year. Good? Gushing out of the way? I wanna share a few jokes I liked. First up: Tony’s check book.
Lots of jokes packed into this one. First Jarvis, the butler for whom Tony will eventually name his Iron Man suit’s AI, gets a “year end bonus” of $45. Cheap! The check Tony writes for liquor has the memo line “Drinky Boo Booze,” which I think is a Honey Boo Boo reference. Yvette Avril is the payee on the next check, and the memo line reads “Let’s just keep this between… ” I don’t know much Yvette, but she was a character in Iron Man comics from around this time and worked for Stark Industries for a spell. This one might be a joke (that I don’t get), but it also serves to confidently place Deadpool in a real time and place in Tony Stark’s past. Oh and the last check is written to Scott Lang AKA Ant Man. The memo line is hilariously simple: “Buy some ants.”
And of course, I’m always happy to see some jabs at Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld too. Cable — another invention of Liefeld’s — shows up at the end of the issue to spirit Deadpool off to 1991 (which is the year of Deadpool’s first appearance), but he shows up looking like hell.
These characters, and the decade they came to personify, were about a lot of stupid excesses — excessive violence, excessive masculinity, excessive pouches. Even if the Deadpool we’ve been following throughout this issue has looked a little more like the modern, sleek Deadpool, Cable looks fucking ridiculous here. Look at the ENORMOUS bandoleer around his bicep, or the three separate spikey bracelets he’s wearing. He’s also missing an ARM — which is either a well-observed statement about the superfluous violence surrounding this character, or a sly dig at Liefeld’s own propensity for hiding characters’ hands and feet (so he doesn’t have to draw them).
Another thing I would happily read every month is a letters column populated by so many comedians I admire. There are letters in here from Brian, Paul Scheer and Patton Oswalt. If there’s one thing I know about LA comedians (other than their strange affinity for Aimee Mann and John Hamm), it’s that they love appearing in each other’s stuff. The podcast families of Earwolf and Nerdist are pretty vivid evidence of this. Incidentally, Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn play D&D in the Nerd Poker podcast which you should absolutely be listening to.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?